Shelby: Grammy Award winner Lil Wayne is known around the world for his rap skills. But it is a different set of skills he is now sharing with the world.
Lil Wayne: Life is a lot like skateboarding. Say there’s a new trick I want to land, right? The first, second and, most likely, the third time, I will fall. But I get back up.
Shelby: What does skating mean to you?
Lil Wayne: Now skating means a lot to me.
Shelby: Wayne says he got hooked on skating about a year ago. He teamed up with Mountain Dew to build a brand new skate park for teens in his hometown of New Orleans.
How big of a deal is skating in New Orleans?
Kevin Keys: It’s a big deal. It’s becoming a big deal.
Shelby: Do you think Lil Wayne has influenced that at all?
Tyler Breaux: Yeah, I mean, since he’s picked it up it’s gotten more popular because everyone likes his music and they figure, like, well, he skates so I should try too, you know.
Lil Wayne: This is my city and this is my passion, and I share everything that I love with my city. Just so be it, the city needed help as well.
Shelby: Wayne’s city has been through a lot since being nearly wiped out in 2005. Hurricane Katrina was one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history, killing more than eighteen hundred people. And nowhere in the city of New Orleans was the devastation greater than here in the Lower Ninth Ward. The storm caused at least $108 billion worth of property damage and forced thousands of people from their homes. Today, the Ninth Ward is still struggling to rebuild.
Mac McClendon: See, what happened with Katrina, we had like a one-way ticket out but not to get back in. And this neighborhood was the hardest hit in New Orleans but the last one to get service.
Shelby: Mac McClendon founded the Lower Ninth Ward Village to help reunite the community after Katrina. So, when it came time for Lil Wayne to choose a location for his DEWeezy Skatepark, teaming up with Mac made perfect sense.
Lil Wayne: I figured why not do it here, the Lower Ninth Ward where Katrina hit the hardest and do something for these people – not only the kids – for the people.
Shelby: The DEWeezy Skatepark was designed to mirror the landscape of the Lower Ninth Ward.
Mike Roebke: We just really wanted to bring to light that the neighborhood is still here.
Shelby: For many of the kids who moved back to the neighborhood after Katrina, the park is a symbol of new beginnings.
What does it mean to you that, like, Mountain Dew and Lil Wayne wanted to build this right here?
Brad McCormick: Like I said, it’s heaven to me. Like, it’s heaven to all these dudes skating right here.
Tyler: I think it’s awesome because he’s showing some, like, respect and he’s giving back to the town, you know, because this is where he’s from
Shelby: And for young people.
Tyler: Yeah. I mean, like, to keep people away from the drugs and alcohol and stuff, it’s just a recreational thing that people can do.
Shelby: Do you think skating is a good influence?
Lil Wayne: It’s a great influence. It’s no violence. It’s keeping the peace. It’s learning something new. It’s being active. It’s keeping you in shape too.
Shelby: In the past, critics have raised concern about Lil Wayne’s influence on young people.
Lil Wayne: You know what the cliché and the stereotype of a rapper is – a gangster rapper. You know, of course, I have the image. I have the tattoos and all that.
Shelby: Despite his controversial history, Wayne is committed to the future of his hometown.
Shelby: On your road to glory, you have had a ton of success but you have also had setbacks. What would you say to students? What have you learned? What sort of advice would you pass long?
Lil Wayne: I would say that you invite setbacks into your life only to make the most of them. And you look back at that setback and you look back at how much you have improved, and that’s what makes life.
Shelby: You get back on the skateboard and skate.
Lil Wayne: You get back on the skateboard and skate.
Shelby: Shelby Holliday, Channel One News.